Musings @musicandmeaning.com

'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.
"He had a theory that musicians are incredibly complex, and know far less than other artists what they want and what they are; that they puzzle themselves as well as their friends; that their psychology is a modern development, and has not yet been understood." – E. M. Forster

Archive for December, 2004


Friday, 31 December 2004

Gmail invites for helping disaster relief

I’ve been puttering around this week and wondering how I could possibly help the huge disaster left by the tsunamis in southeastern Asia. I came down with a cold a few days ago…and I was thinking, I have more than enough to combat the silly cold: water, food in the fridge, warm clothes, plenty of tissue, a place to sleep, and medicine if I need it. There are hundreds of thousands of people, adults and children, who have lost their entire families and homes, and are struggling to survive. No one could have prepared for this kind of catastrophe.

I’d like to do something, though, however small. So I will send you a Gmail invite if you donate to a charity supporting the disaster relief and then e-mail proof of the donation to me. I currently have 10 invitations to offer.

How to get an invite:

  1. Send in an online donation to a charity. Any amount qualifies, but donate as much as you can. Every bit helps.
  2. Post a comment here (don’t forget to include your first and last names — I need them to send the invitation — and use an e-mail address that you actually check). If you don’t want to leave a comment, you can send me a message with your info via this form.
  3. I’ll reply via e-mail, and you then forward the donation receipt. (Don’t worry, you can delete any personal info such as your address and phone number before forwarding it.) Then I’ll send you the invite.

That’s it. Simple. Each person who donates receives one invite.

I’ve donated to Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), one of my favorite charities. (Here’s the direct donate page, so you can find the national office in your country, or the country closest to you.)

Of course, it’s perfectly okay if you’d rather donate to another charity. Google has a list, and there’s also the American Red Cross, which I mentioned earlier. But please make sure you read up about the charity and check it out — at the very least, look up any organizations on www.charitywatch.com (American Institute of Philantrophy, a charity watchdog). Especially take a look at the links labeled "top salaries" and "top-rated groups."

I know I’m not the only one to do this — a quick Google turns up the same concept on Criticise.Me.uk yesterday (and, as noted in the comments, the blogger there got the idea from ChasingDaisy). That’s A Good Thing, because it means the idea is spreading when it counts. I’ve had these invites for a while now and wasn’t sure what to do with them (even Gmail4troops isn’t accepting them anymore). If you have extra invites sitting around, why not give them away for a good cause?

(This offer is open until I run out of invitations.)

Posted at 2:39 am | Filed under News commentary | 3 replies »

Thursday, 30 December 2004

Notice anything unusual with the site feed?

If you’re see some strange things happening on this site for the next few days (disappearing posts, broken links/images, changing links, strange temporary posts that say "Testing…"), please ignore them. I’m in the middle of some major changes on how this blog is organized. You may have already noticed the new permanent link structure for individual posts…which, ironically, are not permanent at all. Beware that the individual post archives are an experiment. I may end up deleting all of them! I know, that doesn’t make any sense…but it really depends on how fast the next step happens…

Basically this is an announcement that I’ll probably switch from MT to WordPress. I’ve had enough of the whole rebuilding thing. I’d forgotten how time-consuming it was compared to WordPress, until this past week. I’m not quite sure when the move will take place. Whenever I get around to it, I suppose.

If it takes a few weeks, I’ll try to get a similar document structure working in my MT archives. Since WP is PHP-based, all of the posts with .html file extensions won’t apply after I move. For now I’m going to be playing with MT’s dynamic capabilities. I tried to create cruft-free URIs (with a trailing slash), but I couldn’t figure out how to do it — I found an MT patch that would enable the trailing slashes, but I’m not sure how to run the patch command, since I don’t have shell access to the Web server. So all of the individual posts have .html extensions. (I’d rather have the extensions than the cruft-free file names without a trailing slash.)

We’ll see what happens. The blog isn’t my top priority right now, so don’t be surprised if I end up staying with MT for a while.

Posted at 1:53 am | Filed under Tech/geek | 2 replies »

Wednesday, 29 December 2004

Donate to the Red Cross Disaster Relief

If possible, please donate to help the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami. I’m still confounded by the magnitude of the disaster.

Many organizations are collecting funds; one is the Red Cross. You can donate directly to the Red Cross. The link is for the American Red Cross (redcross.org), but you can Google for your country’s organization…most of them will have .org in the domain somewhere, but not all of them do.

The redcross.org site may be a little bombarded right now, so an alternative is to donate to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief fund via Amazon.com. (Thanks to scottandrew for that tip.)

Also beware of scammers posing as Red Cross agencies and other charity organizations. If you donate anything, first make sure that the place is legit.

Posted at 5:13 pm | Filed under News commentary |  

Thursday, 23 December 2004

Upgrade to MT 3.14

I’ve thrown in the towel and upgraded from Movable Type 2.661 to 3.14, for the comment spam security. I’ve also upgraded Jay Allen’s MT Blacklist. Specifically to v. 2.03-beta, which was just released yesterday.

Speaking of comment spam, check out Elise’s excellent tips on combating comment spam on your blog. Same goes for Neil’s anti-spam arsenal.

Anyway, the upgrades of both pieces of software (MT and MT-Blacklist) went smoothly, except it appears that the comments aren’t working. At first I thought there was no problem — the comment count is correct on each blog entry. However, if there are any comments (e.g. the link says "Comments (2)"), clicking on it doesn’t bring up any.

So after looking in the config screens, it turns out that the status of all the comments are "pending" (even though the default setting had the moderation turned off) — and I’d have to manually approve everything. (That’s something for the wishlist…you can delete comments by selecting them (ticking boxes) and pressing a button, but you can’t (AFAIK) batch-approve comments.) I figured I’d screwed up the installation somehow. So, I tried approving a few comments individually, but…nothing. They still remain "pending."

I tried submitting a new comment. Previewing it looked fine. After I hit the Post button, the comment disappears. I get a notification e-mail saying that the comment was posted, so it’s not pending, right? But when I look in the comments section of MT, guess what? It’s listed as pending. And reloading the blog, the comment isn’t shown in the comment count, either. Hmm.

I checked all of the comment preferences, made sure that moderation is not on, deleted all of the old Blacklist 1.x files, and rebuilt everything. Still, no go.

So obviously there’s something up with either my Blacklist, my MT, or a conflict somewhere, or maybe permissions aren’t set correctly. I’m betting that it’s not Blacklist. It’s probably something I’m overlooking with MT. I don’t think it’s a database problem.

It’s a nutty hour (time flies when you’re troubleshooting), and my head isn’t exactly thinking at full capacity right now. So I’ve probably overlooked something during the installations or with the config settings.

That’s the long way of saying that the comments aren’t working, and I’ll try to figure it out, but don’t be surprised if it takes me a while of researching this and getting it done this week. If you try submitting a comment, at this point, all you’ll get is a blank comments page in return (although your comment will be e-mailed to me). So for this entry at least, I’m nixing the comment option.

P.S. Why didn’t I install WordPress instead? I have WP for another one of my blogs, but I wanted to see what the big fuss for the integrated Blacklist in MT 3.x was all about.

P.P.S. In re-reading this entry, my reaction was, "Oh wow, what horrible grammar." I’ll fix it sometime soon. Maybe if I fix the grammar, I’ll figure out how to fix the comments. Or not. (This is what happens when I need sleep.)

Update – 29 Dec. ’04: Comments are still not working. Also be aware that none of the previous comments are showing up. So, if you click on a link that says "Comments (2)" for example, there should be two comments, but they won’t display in the window. I’m still working on this, but it will take a few more days to sort out a solution (either fixing comments, doing a fresh install of MT, or even migrating to WP).

Update – later on 29 Dec. ’04: Yay! Comments work again! All previous comments should now display correctly, and new comment submissions will be processed correctly. I finally figured out what the problem was. I was all set to do a fresh install of MT into a new directory, but decided to try some things first with the current directory — after all, if I screwed up the current install of MT even more, then no worries, because I would be doing a fresh install anyway. Long story short…it worked!

I’ll explain the solution to my problem in a separate post, but first I need to work on my restructuring my blog archives a little bit (this had nothing to do with the problem, but I’ll explain everything in the forthcoming post).

[Update: Okay, so I won’t explain the solution in a separate entry…instead, I’ll just point to a post I wrote on the MT support forum. (Scroll down to the December 30 post, which explains how I got the comments working again.)]

Posted at 4:20 am | Filed under Tech/geek | 1 reply »

Monday, 20 December 2004

Music and politics

Since I just posted about music, I’m going to blog this link before I forget…it’s a feature from the music magazine called Under the Radar. I only discovered the feature (and the magazine) yesterday from a link on Mojave3online.com. It looks like an interesting mag — something I’d read, judging by the artists interviewed within its pages. But the feature in particular I wanted to link is the online-only "Bonus Protest Issue Quotes & Photos."

Issue 7 of Under the Radar, The Protest Issue, features a special 33-page section that examines the intersection of music and politics. The section features three main articles that examine different aspects of politics and music: The History of Protest Music (which traces protest music from peace to punk), The American Perspective (in which we spoke to current American indie-rock musicians about politics and political music), and The International Perspective (which examines how musicians from other countries view politics and political music). We interviewed a wide range of musicians for these three articles and so there were a lot of great quotes that we simply weren’t able to fit into the issue. Below is a selection of the best quotes that didn’t make it into the issue, sorted by article and then by artist.

So take a look if you’re interested. Remember, this was published just before the presidential election.

As for my own politics and my own music: I’m not sure. None of my songs are political. At least, I don’t consciously try to infuse political messages and views into my music. The same goes for my writing (fiction, anyway…obviously this blog demonstrates otherwise). I write music for the sake of the music, not for the sake of politics. This all reminds me of what William Gibson said in his blog entry referencing Forster.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say about this later on.

Posted at 11:01 pm | Filed under Music |  

Music to help keep me sane and healthy VII

Continuing the list of free and legal MP3s of some of my favorite songs and artists:

  • Early Day Miners – I just discovered and am enjoying this group. I was surfing Epitonic and randomly downloaded a few songs of artists I didn’t know. So far of the Epitonic discoveries, EDM is my favorite. The band’s scenic music reminds me of the Six Parts Seven (also in this list). As luck would have it, EDM has a show at the Knitting Factory’s Alterknit Lounge on January 26th (only 7 bucks!), but I don’t think I can make it. Anyway, aside from the download recommendation below, there are more free mp3s at the official EDM site.
       » Go to the downloads from Epitonic.com. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: I like "Autumn Wake" quite a bit, thanks to the strings)
     
  • Mojave 3 – If you haven’t guessed, I’m on more of a mellow musical kick right now. This is more folk/acoustic-geared songwriting than the others on the list. Mojave3online.com has become the official Mojave 3 site and offers mp3s of unreleased material and a few shows. You do have to register to be able to access the files, though, but it’s free. Epitonic (no reg req’d) offers two excellent songs. Also check out Neil Halstead‘s solo work; he’s the lead singer/songwriter of Mo3 (there’s a free song, "Two Stones in My Pocket" from Epitonic
       » Go to the downloads from Epitonic.com. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: my personal favorite is "In Love with a View")
     
  • Sigur Rós – I try to highlight bands or artists that don’t really receive the attention they deserve, so I’m not sure I should list Sigur Rós here. Apparently many, many more people know about the group since it toured with Radiohead. Nonetheless, the music isn’t exactly top 40 platinum, so it’s included here. I’m not even sure which songs to recommend, because many of them are different, but Eighteen Seconds Before Sunrise (the official Sigur Rós site) has many free mp3s. I suppose I’d recommend starting with a song from the album Àgætis Byrjun, then working your way to ( ) (yes, that’s the album title). Epitonic also has a couple of mp3s from the former.
       » Go to the downloads from Eighteen Seconds Before Sunrise. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "Olsen Olsen" or "Staràlfur")
       » Go to the downloads from Epitonic. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "Svefn-G-Englar")
     
  • Six Parts Seven – Soundscapes…that’s what comes to mind when I listen to 6p7. I first heard this group a couple of years ago. The music is like a soundtrack — not to a movie (although it could be for a movie, I suppose), but to a personal experience that winds its way through various points. It’s sort of hard to describe, and the style of music is why Early Day Miners reminds me of 6p7. AFAIK, 6p7 doesn’t have vocals (EDM does sometimes), but I could be wrong. Most of the tunes I’ve heard are instrumentals.
       » Go to the downloads from Suicide Squeeze Records. (Which one to d/l if you’re pressed for bandwidth or time: "A Blueprint of Something Never Finished" and "This One or That One?" are good introductions to the band. There’s also a free mp3 by Iron &Wine guy Sam Beam covering a 6p7 tune (Iron & Wine was featured on a previous list); and note that the song "Yearnin’" is actually a Black Keys song, not a 6p7 song)
     

As always, please support the artists and their music by buying their albums and attending their shows.

More music: Aside from Weekend Becomes Eclectic and the CDs pictured at left (if you’re reading this from the front page, that is…right now it’s Chet Baker, Richard Buckner, Vince Guaraldi, Jean-Michel Jarre, Patrick Park, and Wilco…all of whom I’ve mentioned before I think, except for Jarre).

Posted at 10:05 pm | Filed under Music to help keep me sane & healthy |  

Habits are hard to break

Re: baseball: Picture me shaking my head. Re: Dodgers: Picture me grimacing and shaking my head.

If the 10-player mega-trade happens…seriously. I don’t understand it, as a Dodger fan. But then again, after the management traded Paul LoDuca in a deal that didn’t really benefit the Dodgers last season, I guess no one on the team is safe. I hate to say it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the team let Eric Gagné go to another team sometime down the road. I wouldn’t like it, but I wouldn’t be surprised — not after what’s happened and what’s happening. Shawn Green is one of my favorite players because he’s one of those quiet players who shows up to play everyday. I thought his willingness to start at first base last year — and he did an excellent job for a career outfielder who’d never played that position full-time before — demonstrated an admirable amount of team spirit. It’ll be a shame to see him go to the D’backs.

In other news, goodbye Adrian Beltre and Steve Finley, as well as Jose Hernandez, Hideo Nomo and maybe Yhency Brazoban and Kazuhisa Ishii. I know I’m leaving out a few other names. In a strange twist, welcome to Jeff Kent, who I still think of as a Giant. So that’ll be interesting. However, welcoming him poses a question mark for 2B Alex Cora, another one of my favorite Dodgers who had his best year last season.

Oh…Dave Roberts is back in the NL, after helping the Red Sox beat the Yankees and get to the World Series. He’s now with the Padres and apparently in the leadoff spot again. I’m looking forward to seeing him play the Dodgers.

It’s a habit. That’s what baseball is. I’m not sure if next season looks like a winner for L.A., what with these major changes to the cast. Especially with the absence of Beltre, who led the team offensively last season and was the NL MVP runner-up to Barry Bonds.

Speaking of Bonds and the whole steroids thing in general…is anyone really that surprised? There hasn’t been any strict, frequent testing, so gee. What a shocker! As for Bonds using creams and not knowing what they were…I join many others in chorusing, "Puh-leeaze." These are professional athletes, for goodness’ sakes. And Bonds is the most feared hitter in baseball and knows that health and physical training are at the top of the list for his career. How would he not question what he was using for/on/in his body?

Posted at 8:13 pm | Filed under Baseball, sports |